Being at home in Hawaii for the majority of the past year, I’ve gained a new sense of appreciation for the art that tells the stories of the place that I was born and raised. Though I couldn’t be further from the large displays of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, or any of the other famous destinations not far from Princeton, through the art that I have explored in my home state, I have been able to feel firsthand the sort of experience that the most profound pieces of art evoke. In my opinion, this is the ability of a work to capture a particular story or a moment with such clarity that it takes the viewer on a journey beyond just the details that are physically represented.
My exploration of the modern-day artists in my state began back in October of last year when I was taking an entrepreneurship class at Princeton – ENT 200. One of the assignments of the class was something along the lines of arranging to speak with someone who inspires you or who is active in an industry you are interested in. I chose to reach out to a local filmmaker, Alika Maikau, who had recently come out with a short film that caught my attention because the subject matter was so unlike anything I had seen before. His film Molokai Bound told the story of a young man recently released from prison struggling to reconnect with his son and his Hawaiian heritage. Though it may seem like an odd choice of subject matter for a film about Hawaii, to those that are from the islands, it portrays, in many ways for the first time, the sort of dual reality that exists in Hawaii. On the one hand, Hawaii is a tropical paradise teeming with photo worthy locations. However, if you look beyond the resorts and palm trees, right under the surface there are people facing a lot of struggles that get swept under the rug, from disparities in health outcomes to a skyrocketing cost of living that has only gotten worse with the boom in wealthy transplants working remotely.
Therefore, Maikau’s Molokai Bound is not only a thoughtful contrast to the classic Hollywood narrative of Hawaii as the tourists’ playground, but shows the impact of art in shaping perceptions of a place. For me, watching the films created by Alika Maikau provided a moment for reflection on the complex fabric of the islands I get to call home and the entirely different level of genuity of works that are created by people who are members of the community they are seeking to depict.